Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is vital to qualify for low-cost financial aid towards college. You won’t be eligible for federal or state financial aid without filing this application. Many scholarships and grants also require recipients to have filed the FAFSA. The information on the form determines your eligibility for work-study programs. While everyone stresses the importance of filing this application, what often remains overlooked is the yearly FAFSA renewal.
Understanding the FAFSA Renewal Process
The information you submit through the FAFSA is valid only for one academic year. This is because your financial and even personal circumstances could change every year. Your family income may have increased or decreased. Marital statuses may change or you may have another sibling going to college. You have to update all details for every subsequent year so your aid eligibility can be recalculated for that year.
The single most important thing to understand about renewing your FAFSA is this – it has to be filed every year that you’re in college. That’s the only way to continue receiving low-cost financial aid from your school and the federal and state governments. Without filing the FAFSA, you won’t qualify to receive any financial aid from these entities.
FAFSA Renewal Deadline
The deadline for FAFSA renewal typically starts on October 1 through to midnight on June 30. While that gives you a lot of time, experts strongly recommend submitting the FAFSA as early as possible. This will give you the highest chance of getting the maximum financial aid that you’re eligible for.
The date of submission won’t make a difference where federal student aid is concerned. Federal aid does not run out. However, schools set limited financial aid for each academic year, which is disbursed on a first-come-first-served basis. If you submit the FAFSA towards the end of the deadline, your school may run out of funds by then.
The date you file the FAFSA can make a huge difference in the total amount of financial aid you receive for the year.
FAFSA Renewal Is Quick & Easy
The good news about your FAFSA renewal is that filling the form won’t be as time-consuming as the first time. When you complete the application the first time, the details get saved in the system. When you log in to renew the application the next year, key details get auto-populated. That means you won’t need to fill in every single detail all over again. You only have to go through the details and correct information that may have changed. For example, if you got married or joined the military in the past year, you’ll need to update those details. If you moved, you’ll need to update your address. FAFSA renewal is relatively quick and easy, taking less than an hour to complete.
Your income and tax do not get auto-populated as that is expected to change from one year to the next. But don’t worry, you won’t need to fill in these details manually either. There is an IRS retrieval tool within the FAFSA. You can download your income and tax information directly onto the form using this tool.
FAFSA Renewal Process Step-By-Step
Step-by-step FAFSA Renewal:
Step 1: Log in with your FSA ID.
The system will recognize that you submitted the FAFSA the previous year. The renewal form will be pre-populated with your name, birth date, and other identifying details. If you’re a dependent student, your parent will have to use their FSA ID to sign in.
Step 2: Review and Update the Pre-filled Information.
Although the form gets prefilled, you must go through it all carefully and ensure that all information is accurate. Rushing through the details is a mistake. Some personal and financial details may have changed. You may have a new mailing address. Your status may have changed to independent if you’re now older than 24 or because you got married the previous year. Not updating the relevant information could cause you to lose thousands of dollars in financial aid.
Step 3: Update Income and Financial Info.
Financial information does not get pre-filled on the renewal form. You will have to manually enter details about your savings and checking account balances, and assets. Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to add information about your tax returns directly onto the FAFSA application. You can also enter these details manually if you prefer.
Step 4: Add Potential Transfer Schools (If Needed).
You want to share your FAFSA info with the right schools. The FAFSA will pre-fill information with details of your original schools. If you’re thinking about transferring, make sure to add the codes for your current school as well as any other schools you’re considering. You can find these codes in the FAFSA Federal School Code Search tool.
Step 5: Have Your Parents Enter Their Info (If Dependent).
Just as you did, your parent will also have to review and update their personal and financial details. This includes any changes to their marital status and household size. They can also use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to automatically import their tax information. This step does not apply if you’re filing as an independent student.
Step 6: Sign and Submit Your FAFSA Renewal.
If you’re filing as a dependent student, your parents will have to sign the form too.
You should receive an email within five days to a week, notifying you that your FAFSA renewal has been processed.